All of us have experienced moments when we are stuck – and often a few times per day. We know what we have to do, but find a good reason for not doing it. We procrastinate. Or come up with an excuse or cop-out.
We have developed fixed mindsets about what we can and can’t do and about many other things. We create some realities which serve as positively, but we also create some which do not serve us.
Often we simply believe we can’t. Is it true?
Robert Middleton, an American marketing expert and coach who serves independent professionals such as consultants and coaches, covers this topic in his coaching material. In his newsletter this week he addressed being stuck. How often do we find a good excuse for not pushing through?
This article is very readable and to the point, and I decided to send it to my subscribers in full. I provide full attribution at the bottom of this post. Robert over to you:
Moving Past “I can’t”
Many years ago Nike committed to a very powerful slogan for their business – “Just Do It.”
And while few can argue with the motivational message embedded in this slogan, unfortunately it isn’t enough to get most people past their already embedded belief:
“I can’t do it.”
If we are honest with ourselves we’ll admit that we express versions of this every single day:
“It’s too much trouble, I don’t have the time, I might fail, it costs too much, the risk is too big, it won’t work anyway, I don’t know where to start, it has to be perfect first, I’ll make a fool of myself, who am I to do this?, I’ll do it later.”
For years I had the famous quote from Henry Ford posted above my desk: “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Unfortunately, for too many of us, “I can’t” wins out many more times than “I can.” But as Ford says, it comes down to a matter of thinking. What if it was as easy to say “I can” as “I can’t”?
“It’s easy, I have the time, I might succeed, it’s affordable, the risk isn’t too big, it will probably work, I know where to start, it doesn’t need to be perfect, I’ll make a success of myself, I’m the one to do this, I’ll do it now!”
But it’s not just the words is it? No it’s the belief behind the words. We feel we are just telling the truth with all those “I can’ts.” We’re just reporting on the way it is, right?
Well, no. That’s not the way it works at all.
Last week I came up against a big wall of “I can’t.”
But instead of letting it take me, I examined it.
I didn’t accept that it was true, but instead assumed it was simply a lie that had gotten me in its grip.
“I can’t” beliefs don’t come out of nowhere. No, we’ve had years and years to practice and perfect them.
One day, a long time ago, when we were very little, we failed at something. Perhaps we fell down. It was painful. We cried. But nevertheless, we survived.
This didn’t happen once, but a thousand times between the formative years of one and five. Thousands of little failures, all associated with some pain and upset.
Fast forward to today. After awhile we didn’t need the failure anymore to feel the pain and upset. Just the things in our external environment were reminders of this pain and upset. There are hard things to do, people who might disapprove, reminders of how we failed before.
For instance, in marketing:
- Picking up the phone for a follow-up call
- Asking for a referral from a client
- Writing an article that must persuade
- Speaking in front of a large audience
- Getting a handle on social media
- Asking for the order
All of these have the potential to trigger pain and upset. So it becomes easier to just avoid these things. With these types of triggers, we don’t think anymore, we just react with our favourite version of “I can’t” and that makes us feel a little safer in our limited comfort zone.
Ultimately I noticed that my own “I can’t” had been triggered by not reaching a particular goal. And that felt painful and upsetting. I felt like a failure; I wanted to quit.
But I didn’t try to “power through” this belief and assert its opposite: “I can!” No, that’s violent. That dismisses the reality of the painful feeling. It actually only magnifies the “I can’t” as it fights to survive.
Instead, I just observed it very carefully. I asked if it was really true; I noticed how I was reacting and behaving. And I tried to imagine how I might behave if I wasn’t caught in this belief.
I created some separation between what I might call “the observing me” and “the reactive me.” And I gave “the reactive me” space to just be. I didn’t resist it or try to change it.
And in about half an hour, the reactive me, committed to the “I can’t” belief, just lifted and dissipated like the fog when the sun comes out. Before long it was nowhere to be found.
And all I was left with was “I can” along with a feeling of unstoppable power and unusually rich well-being. Then with little fuss or effort I took the actions I had been avoiding and produced some great results.
So… are you caught in an “I can’t” that is holding you, your business, your marketing, your relationship, your health, or whatever else in your life, back? The first step is to realize that you’re caught in the power of “I can’t” and that it may, in fact, not be true at all.
If you want to get to “I can,” don’t force it. It’s already inside you ready to take charge. But by gently working with the “I can’t,” by observing it and questioning it, it will tend to dissipate by itself.
And then what will you do from “I can?”
Will you take a risk, find the time to learn something new, start a project that is hard but worthwhile?
If you don’t act and prove the reality of “I can” and grow its strength, then “I can’t” will happily find a way to reassert itself.
Many thanks, Robert!
PS. Robert Middleton’s website is www.actionplan.com. Visit his website. Robert provides immense value. Download some of his free stuff. Join his Marketing Club.keywords: build people, change management, learning